COLUMBUS — In the midnight hour after Ohio State’s loss in the Orange Bowl, Jack Mewhort reluctantly said good-bye.
The senior from Toledo peeled off his scarlet No. 74 jersey, hugged each teammate in the offensive line’s corner of the Sun Life Stadium locker room, and reflected on a “great journey.” Coach Urban Meyer told him, “Thank you.”
By the next day, it was time to move on.
Mewhort, the Buckeyes’ All-American left tackle, signed with Priority Sports agent Mike McCartney — the son of former Colorado coach Bill McCartney — and arrived Sunday night at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Now begins the four-month tornado of exhibitions, workouts, interviews, exams, and scrutiny that will determine where the St. John’s Jesuit graduate is selected in the NFL draft May 8-10.
Mewhort will spend the next six weeks in Bradenton training for the Senior Bowl, where he will join Buckeyes running back Carlos Hyde and about 100 of the nation’s top senior prospects for the Jan. 25 all-star game in Mobile, Ala., and the NFL combine — a blitz of physical and mental testing, speed-dating sessions with team officials, and general ogling.
“The good news is because he just played, he’s in football shape and the Senior Bowl should be seamless,” McCartney said Thursday by phone. “When he comes back, he’s got to get ready for the underwear football event called the combine. That’s a completely different deal. It’s not football. It’s indoor track and field.”
After the late-February combine in Indianapolis, Mewhort plans to return to Columbus to train, run through Ohio State’s annual pro day before dozens of scouts and executives, and work out individually for interested teams. He is also on course to graduate in May with a degree in consumer and family resource financial services.
Mewhort and his family felt comfortable with McCartney, the director of football operations for Priority Sports — a Chicago-based agency that counts star Texans running back Arian Foster and former Buckeyes linebacker A.J. Hawk among its clients and has negotiated more than a billion dollars in contracts in the last three seasons.
McCartney grew up around football as his dad, Bill, rose from an assistant at Michigan under Bo Schembechler to the head coach at Colorado, where he won the national title in 1990. Mike then dove in, joining the Buffaloes staff as a quarterbacks coach from 1987 to 1989. He became a college and pro scout for the Chicago Bears and the Philadelphia Eagles’ director of pro personnel before becoming the first top-level front-office official during the salary-cap era to leave the NFL for a major agency.
That background attracted him to Mewhort.
“His character is highly recommended, and he is so highly thought of there in Columbus,” McCartney said. “Obviously, we want good football players, and Jack is easy for me to really like as a player. I see a very, well-rounded versatile left tackle with good feet and just excellent intelligence. I think he has a ton of upside and, with his work ethic and his character, we’re thrilled to be working with him.”
While McCartney said it’s too early to project when his client will be drafted, many analysts tab Mewhort as a second- or third-round pick. They widely see the 6- foot-6, 308-pound cornerstone of the Buckeyes’ front as a potential starting right tackle with the ability to move inside to guard, where he played as a sophomore.
NFLDraftScout.com projects Mewhort as the draft’s No. 57 overall prospect and seventh-best tackle, behind Texas A&M senior Jake Matthews, Auburn senior Greg Robinson, Alabama junior Cyrus Kouandjio, Michigan senior Taylor Lewan, and Tennessee junior Antonio Richardson. ESPN rates Mewhort ninth at tackle.
“That offensive line for Ohio State was definitely a strength last year, and Mewhort was the leader,” CBS Sports draft analyst Dane Brugler said. “He’s clearly the best of the group. He’s a big-bodied guy, strong balance, he’ll run lanes, he’s physical, he’s mean, has strong hands, he’s under control. He can be a little heavy-handed and needs to improve his placement with his hands to better combat rushers and their hand moves. He’ll allow rushers into his body.
“But he absorbs contact very well. He has such a stout anchor to hold his ground. Not many rushers will be able to move him from his spot. I think he has a chance to shine at the Senior Bowl and be a starting-caliber right tackle, a physical presence in the NFL.”